Dialectical Journals – The Glass Castle || 4.11.2016
Pages 1-15 || “That was good, she said, because from the look of it, I had other things to worry about.” || Page 14
In this simple statement, the nurse slightly roasts Jeannette’s family. It’s good Jeannette isn’t worried about her scar because she has to worry about her rowdy family that was just kicked out of the room. Only 3 at the time, this statement would go over Jeannette’s head, but there is definitely meaning in it. Writing this as an adult, Walls intentionally included the statement as a nod and foreshadow to the dysfunctional nature of her family.
Pages 16-30 || “‘If you spend one night in some town, did you live there?’” || Page 29
Definitely a thought provoking statement. What defines a home? The kids decide that it’s when you unpack your things. Yet I disagree. If one stays a week at a hotel and unpacks into the dressers, they wouldn’t consider themselves living there. By the kids’ definition, I’ve lived in upwards of 10 places including hotels and summer camps. In reality, I’ve lived in two places – my current house and the previous. This is only counted places I’ve lived permanently.
Pages 31-45 || “Venus was only a planet, and pretty dinky compared to real stars” || Page 40
Looking at the night sky, Venus stands out as a bright point compared to others. It reflects light that can be seen at dawn and dusk hours. However, it is a planet that it rather small and insignificant compared to actual stars. This demonstrates the importance of perspective and standards for comparison. By itself, Venus is pretty fantastic. Set against a combusting star, it is nothing.
Pages 46-60 || “Our new home was the oldest buildings in the town, Mom proudly told us, with a real frontier quality to it.” || Page 51
This quote demonstrates the different spin that Jeannette’s mom can put on things. An old dilapidated shack versus a historical homage. The diction of “frontier quality” provides insight into the mindset of Rose Mary Walls. She’s able to make the best of the worst conditions. Or perhaps she just has a distaste for city life. Either way, she makes the situation sound hopeful for her kids, even if it may not be.
Pages 61-75 || “So we mixed up a batch of what Brian called nuclear fuel, pouring different liquids in a can. When I tossed in a match, a cone of flame shot up” || Page 61
This sentence was shocking to me due to its casual nature. They are playing in the dump and trying to make explosions. This reveals what a abnormal life these kids are living. To them, it is perfectly normal to wander independently and experiment with hazardous waste. Even when their concoction starts the shed ablaze, the author only allots half a page to their struggle before moving on – there are more exciting occurrences to cover in this story.
Pages 76-90 || “Its [an abandoned car’s] red paint had been bleached by the desert sun and had turned orange along the rusting trim. The tires had collapsed a long time ago, and the black rag roof was peeling.” || Page 87
.With a lifetime to cover in this memoir, Walls must carefully select what passages to include in order to create her desired effect on the reader. She has to move fast, as with the quote a few paragraphs above about nuclear fuel, but she also carefully selects details that stand apart. This old car is not important to the events occurring, yet it helps the reader visualize the scene.
Pages 91-105 || “Lori and I were secretly thrilled to be called special.” || Page 95
This statement reveals some of the inner character of Lori and Jeannette. They are very intelligent children having learned much from their parents. Nonetheless, Lori and Jeannette enjoy receiving the recognition for what is oftentimes overlooked in their lives. Personally, I’ve been in these “gifted” and “honors” groups all through my education. It is important to place students in academically rigorous environments, yet these same groups can also label people as smart or dumb and categorize types of people.
Pages 106-120 || “Dad stewed for a while, sucking on a beer” || Page 106
This sentence reminded me that Rex/Dad has a drinking problem. He’s ranting about the problems of cities compared to the wilderness and interacting with his young children, but even at this point he has a beer. With such specific word choice as “sucking on” the alcohol, it’s almost as if he is a baby sucking a bottle of milk. It is a dependency that he cannot shake.
Pages 121-135 || “I won’t have any competition. My career could really take off here.” || page 135
Always on the hopeful side – or perhaps unrealistic – Rose Mary always see brighter skies ahead even when there may not be. She has kids to support and lives in poor conditions, yet she lacks a job and there family has no stable income. I fail to see her reasoning in optimism. There is so much that she could do to improve their lives yet she refuses even to wear glasses so she can see.
Pages 136-150 || “She gave me a serious look, as if imparting a meaningful life lesson I should ponder and absorb.” || Page 143
This quote stood out to me because it is the story of Jeanette’s life; it discusses many of her life lessons along the way. However, most of these come from her parents. In this instance, there is no life lesson, just a racist comment from her grandmother. In this way, Jeannette dismisses the comment. The language in this quote demonstrates the contrast between potential role models in her life – her parents alternate between trash and idolism but a character like Erma is straight garbage.
Page 158 | “one [paint job] that announced to the world that the people inside the house wanted to fix it up but lacked the gumption to get the work done”
Essentially, this quote sums up the Walls family. They have countless ideas and sporadic flurries of motivation, but they lack follow-through and consistency. Sure, Rex can get a job, he can start a project, but he is unable to provide a stable environment for his family. They live practically like nomads.
Page 169 | “It was getting harder [to try and believe in my father]”
This quote alerts the reader to a shift that has occurred within Jeannette. She used to idolize her father-he was her supreme source of knowledge and faith. Yet, she is maturing and starting to see what he lacks. Sure, he has strong ideas and much intelligence, but he lacks application and reliability in supporting his family.
Page 188 | “Welfare, she said, would cause irreparable psychological damage to us kids.”
This is something that puzzles me. The Walls have the ability to live in a lot better situation than they do if they would just accept some help or actually press themselves into their work. Nonetheless, Rex and Mary fail to accept any offering of help because of their high levels of pride. As a result, their children suffer.
Page 200 | “Even though I didn’t trust boys, I sure did wish one would show some interest in me.”
Ah, the struggles of a preteen. She has those conflicting feelings inside her. She doesn’t trust strangers, noted boys, but she has a growing need for attention. This boy problem is faced by countless adolescents and almost seems out of place in this hard core yet down to earth novel. It stood out to me because of how normal it seemed in Jeannette’s abnormal life.
Page 213 | “‘You might have been convinced you were going to drown, but I knew you’d do just fine.'”
Wow, harsh parenting. Rex just throws his daughter in the deep end and expects her to survive on her own merit. There are ups and downs to this parenting, she is an exceptionally independent minded person. However, it probably should not be applied when this child is attacked and expected to ward off a man…
Page 220 | “He was in a tighter spot than I was. He had to back down, because if he sided with Mom and gave me a whipping, he would lose me forever.”
Jeannette is at a crucial point in her specific life. Her father is split in a feud and risks losing either his wife or his daughter. Jeannette assumes her father will choose her, but perhaps she takes him too lightly. Either way, this event (oh the whipping right after this quote – my b) drastically changes the relationship between Jeannette and her father.
Page 230 | ‘The family is falling apart,’ he said.
‘It sure is,’ I told him.”
This quote just saddened me. The family is starting to go separate ways. The kids have realized how futile it is to stay with their parents and are going to start independent lives and try to improve the quality of their own life. As right as this is for the maturing children, it will forever change the personal dynamics of their once-close family.
Page 245 | “A blur of hurrying bodies streamed past me, leaving me feeling like a stone in the creek”
This quote successfully characterizes part of the descriptive styles of Walls. Combining imagery and simile, it masterfully forges a depiction of the hustling, bustling city life that is foreign to Jeannette. She is used to smaller towns, but now has come to New York City to search for opportunity. I like this quote because of the clear cut diction that raises a specific depiction of the New York atmosphere that is perhaps too fast for Jeannette.
Page 261 | “Dad burst into laughter that ended in another fit of coughing.”
In a rather depressing statement, this quote manages to capture the aging that Rex has undergone. He still maintains his sense of humor and extraterrestrial ambition, but he lacks the health. It is another coughing fit that faces him. His downfall is looming, this is sure. I’m curious as to where this book will end. Will Rex die or just come close? Will Mary pass as well?
Page 288 | “Life with your father was never boring.”
Very close to the closing of the novel, Rex has passed, but Jeannette and her mother are still alive. I selected this statement because of its ambiguous understatement and lack of direction. It fails to character the life of Rex as good or bad, and that is the goal. Rex always had good intentions, but he never built that glass castle he promised Jeannette. He had too much swirling in his head to be able to stop and appreciate what he needed to do. In the end, he lost himself and his children no longer esteemed him with the same worth.